Virginia lobbyists accused of misleading black voters fined $5 million

Two Virginia lobbyists accused of trying to dissuade black voters during the 2020 presidential election have been fined $5 million by federal regulators for illegally sending robocalls.

An investigation by the Federal Communications Commission found that Jack Berkman and Jacob Wohl paid a separate company to place more than 1,100 recorded robocalls in August and September last year. Both admitted to arranging the call, which the FCC said was a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

Prosecutors in Michigan, New York and Ohio last year charged Berkman and Wohl with allegedly trying to intimidate black voters in Cleveland, Detroit and New York City.

“The recorded messages told potential voters that if they voted by mail, their personal information would be part of a public database used by police departments to track old warrants and by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts.” Will be done.” the FCC said in a statement on Tuesday.

The FCC’s Bureau of Enforcement must first approve the proposed $5.1 million fine after giving Berkman and Wohl an opportunity to respond. The pair are now facing the biggest fine ever issued under the Telephone Act.

Berkman and Wohl did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Consumer complaints prompt federal investigation

Berkman and Wohl, consultants who work for JM Berkman & Associates in Arlington, offer robocalling and other political services through their company under the name “Project 1599”. Cellphone users began complaining about robocalls from Burkman & Associates last September, prompting federal regulators to investigate.

In Ohio, Cuyahoga County officials said Burkman and Wohl sent pre-recorded messages that falsely warned people that voting by mail would expose their information to law enforcement, collection agencies, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s databases. Will appear

Berkman and Voll were charged with eight counts of telecommunications fraud and seven counts of bribery. The case is still pending.

Deadline for phone companies to implement robocall blocking technology


The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation sued JM Berkman & Associates last year for robocalling activity, alleging that Berkman and Wohl were intentionally trying to spread misinformation to voters nationwide. A US District Court judge agreed and ordered the men to send away a robocall that told callers that previous robocalls “contained false information that had the effect of intimidating voters.”

The increasing volume of robocalls has become a nationwide issue in recent years, as scammers use this method. billion dollar bill from americans,

The makers of call-blocking app YouMail said Americans received about 4.2 billion robocalls in July — bringing the number back to pre-pandemic levels. Consumers on pace to receive roughly 52 million robocalls this year 40 billion in 2018Yumel said.

With robocalls on the rise, acting FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel said Commission will create more pressure on wireless carriers to prevent unwanted calls. Companies like T-Mobile and Verizon play a major role in reducing robocalls, she said earlier this summer.

“What this means is, when a call is being made, a carrier can tell that it is really the person who says they are on the line,” Rosenworcel said.

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